There are some who have argued, in spite of the fact that he had six touchdown passes through the first six games, that as an overall body of work, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has not been putting his best foot forward thus far for the majority of the 2016 season. I know, because I was among those arguing just that.
He had what was clearly his worst performance of the first three weeks last Sunday in a dismal defeat to the Eagles in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass—although he had a potential touchdown pass dropped at the end of the opening drive—but in general, even through the dropped passes, he was off-target far more than was the norm.
Last night was overwhelmingly his best performance of the season by virtually any metric, in terms of either efficiency or production. He completed 22 passes on just 27 attempts for a stellar completion percentage above 81, hit exactly the 300-yard mark, averaging 11.1 yards per pass attempts—oh, and he threw five touchdown passes to four different receivers, in doing so earning himself a near-perfect passer rating.
That is certainly one way to bounce back, and he did so while also keeping the Steelers clean on the giveaway front. Roethlisberger threw four interceptions over the course of the first three games, but he was able to stay clean in that regard last night. He was also sacked twice—I believe both of the ‘in the grasp variety’—but did not fumble.
To be quite frank, this is the Ben Roethlisberger that Ben Roethlisberger is capable of being, and it is also the Ben Roethlisberger that the Pittsburgh Steelers need him to be in order to fulfill their championship aspirations for the 2016 season, aspirations that are very much rekindled after their dominating showing in a 43-14 game that was not as close as the scoreboard might indicate.
In terms of efficiency, he led an offense that converted on six of its 11 third-down opportunities, gaining very nearly eight yards per offensive play, and going without a blip in three trips inside the red zone, as well as two trips in goal-to-go situations.
He added not one, not two, but three touchdown passes from long range, of at least 30 yards, on the day, each to a different wide receiver, and, in all, completed a pass to nine different players, or in other words, every offensive skill position player who received playing time.
Both the Steelers and Roethlisberger himself have shown us this season how we can go through the ups and downs. Neither he nor the team looked like they could beat just about anybody last week in a 31-point defeat, but they responded yesterday with a 29-point blowout and an overall dominating showing.